Faith Based Initiatives...deceit by the neocons...classic Straussianism.

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Faith Based Initiatives...deceit by the neocons...classic Straussianism.

A disturbing report from the GAO and a scathing book penned by a
former faith-based office staffer may signal the end for the
controversial effort to fund religious charity with public money...


President Bush's federal faith-based initiative could be in trouble
following a critical government report and a new book hitting stores
with charges that the White House manipulated religious conservatives
for political gain.

Tempting Faith: An Insider Story of Political Seduction was penned
by Kuo, who served as number-two man at the White House Office of
Faith-Based and Community Initiatives from 2001-2003. Kuo's
allegations have created a furor over Bush administration policy, and
paint a picture of the key White House officials including deputy
chief of staff Karl Rove, as condescending and cynical about
evangelical Christians. That attitude, however, did not prevent the
Bush election machine from staging large events to promote the
faith-based initiative in areas where important House and Senate races
were taking place leading into the 2002 elections.

According to Kuo, Christian leaders like televangelist Pat Robertson
were referred to as "nuts," "goofy" and "ridiculous," although their
political support was always courted.

"National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and
then were dismissed behind their backs..." Kuo wrote. He added that
on orders from Ken Mehlman, at the time Bush's director of public
affairs, the White House faith-based office staged conferences in
areas where Republicans faced daunting re-election challenges.

"The office decided to hold roundtable events for threatened
incumbents with faith and community leaders, using the aura of our
White House power to get a diverse group of faith and community
leaders to a 'non-partisan' event discussing how best to help poor
people in their area," Kuo revealed.

The White House quickly denied Kuo's charges. Press secretary Tony
Snow first said that he had not seen the books, and then released a
written statement insisting that there had been no attempt to exploit
the faith-based initiative to score political points and help
Republican candidates.

Critical GAO Report, Problems With Performance, Accountability

The allegations in Tempting Faith, however, are not the first
criticisms about how the Bush initiative is operating.

In June, 2006, the General Accounting Office (GAO), which serves as
the investigative watch-dog agency for Congress, issued a stinging
report looking into monitoring and accountability issues in the
federal faith-based initiative. It challenged many of the claims made
by supporters of the program -- that churches and other houses of
worship can deliver social services "faster, better and cheaper"
than secular counterparts, and still remain within legal boundaries.

The report found widespread evidence that the government has yet to
establish a consistent and thorough process to monitor grant
recipients and gauge the effectiveness of their programs. In
addition, GAO investigators discovered that a shocking number of
agencies benefiting from the largesse of faith-based grants were, in
fact, mixing religion with their social programs.

Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), who along with Rep. George Miller
(D-Calif.) asked the GAO to look into the White House program, said
"The Bush administration has failed to develop standards to verify
that faith-based organizations aren't using federal funds to pay for
inherently religious activity or to provide services on the basis of
religion." The report, for instance, cited the example where four
FBOs (Faith-Based Organizations) "that provided voluntary religious
activities did not separate in terms of time or location some
religious activities from federally funded program services."

Researchers also noted that there was "Little information ...
available to assess progress toward another long-term goal of
improving participant outcomes because outcome-based evaluations for
many pilot programs have not begun..."

Ellen Johnson, President of American Atheists said that both the GAO
report and the revelations in Mr. Kuo's book confirm fears that have
been leveled by critics of the Bush faith-based initiative.

"It shouldn't surprise anyone that with all of this money being made
available and little fiscal oversight, the faith-based initiative is
out of control, said Johnson. "We're paying the price now for a
government program that started off as a questionable and
unconstitutional experiment, and has ended up being a tool for
partisan politics."

For further information:
("The Perfect Storm: new hurricane season, record push for faith-based
emergency programs," 6-27-06)
("Atheists move to stop municipal subsidies for church 'facade
improvement' scheme," 4/26/06)
(Archive of early articles on the federal faith-based initiative)



David Kuo has written a book, "Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of
Political Seduction," that has grabbed headlines and fueled a
firestorm of controversy with its allegations about the federal
faith-based initiative.

Kuo charges, for instance, that prominent White House officials like
Karl Rove, masquerading behind public support of the effort to
distribute hundreds of millions of dollars to religious groups in
order to administer religion-saturated social programs, mocked
evangelical Christians behind their backs, and suborned this
initiative on behalf of "compassionate conservatism" into a cynical
campaign to win elections for Republicans. Churches and evangelical
leaders who supported GOP candidates, along with political
kleptomaniacs like Tom DeLay, benefited from this government largesse.
There were "conferences" organized by the White House Office for
Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in districts where Republicans
desperately needed the support of evangelical voters.

It was a blatant quid-pro-quo. Grants to operate lucrative social
programs and proselytize the neediest, most vulnerable elements in our
society in the process, seemed to appear in tandem with those ballot
initiatives against gay marriage, or where candidates for public
office were screeching the most about "family values" and bringing the
country "back to god."

In all of the buzz about the Kuo book, however, there are some glaring
points no one seems willing to discuss.

First is the fact that, if Mr. Kuo is to be considered truthful, Rove
and other White House officials mocked key evangelical leaders, and
described them with derogatory terms like "nuts," "goofy" and "out of
control." This may actually prove to be reassuring. Evangelist Pat
Robertson is often portrayed in the electronic media accounts about
Kuo's book with the soundtrack voice-over mentioning this unflattering
terminology. Should we be outraged that government officials,
admittedly in the privacy of their offices, refer to Robertson and his
kindred religionists in such a fashion?

If terms such as "nuts" and "goofy" do not accurately characterize the
views enunciated by some evangelicals, perhaps "bizarre" may be more
appropriate. Pastor Robertson, for instance, has boasted openly of
diverting hurricanes through prayer; warned that God may "punish"
communities that have gay-friendly events with natural calamities,
"maybe even a meteorite"; and made reckless statements that sent waves
of concern through the U.S. Department of State, such as his recent
recommendation that we "take out" foreign leaders such as Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez. Whatever one's take on Chavez, Robertson has a
long pedigree of supporting equally loathsome foreign dictators like
Charles Taylor and the late Mobutu Sese-Seko citing the rationale that
they were Christian, and bulwarks against Communist political

Of course, "goofy" may be an appropriate term for Robertson's recent
claim that he could leg-press thousands of pounds of weight, far in
excess of the limit for the most powerful collegiate wrestlers.

Robertson and another religious right luminary, Jerry Falwell, blamed
the tragic events of 9/11 not on Islamic terrorists but instead on
feminists, abortion rights supporters, gays, secularists and other
ideological opponents. "Out of control"? "Nutty"?


Another shortcoming in Mr. Kuo's book is the implicit message that the
federal faith-based initiative was potentially a sound and appropriate
social experiment that fell captive to bureaucratic dysfunction and
lustful political ambition. He and stalwart supporters of the program
may argue that with sufficient oversight and in the hands of a
less-craven and power hungry administration, the effort to deal with
social ills by distributing tax money to churches and other houses of
worship is not only worthy but workable.

We must disagree here. Even if the faith-based initiative somehow
avoided the problems cited by Mr. Kuo or enumerated in the recent
Government Accounting Office report on accountability and oversight
within the program, it remains a constitutionally flawed and unfair
idea. A "better" faith-based initiative, whatever the bureaucratic
criteria may be, still extorts money from millions of Americans who
are Atheists, Freethinkers, Humanists or some other type of
nonbeliever. It takes money from those who do not embrace religious
creeds, and gives it to churches and other faith-based groups. It
crosses a constitutional line dividing the spheres of church and
state, ultimately promotes religious faith, and amounts to a "religion
tax" on our citizenry.

The faith-based initiative should be dismantled not because it is
organizationally flawed, or lacks sufficient guidelines, or requires
further tinkering, but because it is unconstitutional and ethically
wrong. It does not matter that more churches, mosques or temples have
yet to endorse it or participate. Government has no business
subsidizing religious groups in such a fashion, even under the guise
of "compassionate conservatism." If the notion of "religious liberty"
and the principle of freedom from religious coercion mean anything, it
must be a declaration that no man or woman may be compelled by the
state to believe in a particular creed, join a certain congregation,
or support a religious organization (and religious belief in general)
through taxation.

Mr. Kuo's book and the other revelations about the faith-based
initiative are welcome reminders that religion and politics can be an
unstable and socially deleterious alliance. It should surprise no one
that the Bush social experiment ultimately succumbed to political
ambition and the hunt for votes. Indeed, it was clear from the moment
that President Bush conjured the faith-based scheme into existence --
it has never been granted approval from Congress
-- using his power of Executive Orders, that the coterie of priests,
pastors, mullahs and other religious leaders supporting him were hard
pressed to trade the votes of their congregations for more of the
public coin. It was vote begging and vote buying, pure and simple.

It would be truly frightening if major government policy makers, even
Karl Rove, embraced fully the same bizarre, intellectually bankrupt
creed and doctrines of, say, Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell or James
Dobson, the self-appointed values guru of American families. In a
strange sense, it is reassuring to know that these religious leaders
do not enjoy quite the same official enthusiastic support and
intellectual consent as their counterparts in, say, Iran. Wouldn't we
rather have Robertson and his kindred divines as puppets, lap dogs
thrown the occasional political bone, instead of full partners in the
business of government?

This reality should not lead us to underestimate the considerable
political clout wielded by the religious right. Despite his cynicism,
Karl Rove knows that there are about 4 million evangelical votes that
he has his fellow political strategists need in order to keep their
party in office. Indeed, the new-found enthusiasm of many Democrats
like Mr. Barak Obama who want to jump in to the risky business of
wooing evangelical and other religious voters, is testament to the
power of blind faith at the ballot box. Robertson, Falwell, Dobson,
D. James Kennedy all wield considerable power within the Republican
Party and on Capitol Hill, and that influence cannot and should not be

That fact, too, is yet another reason to dismantle the faith-based
initiative at the federal, state and local level. Atheists and other
nonreligious American will never have a fair playing field to support
public policies that affirm the separation of church and state if we
are being taxed to fund theocratic social programs, organizations and
values. Mr. Kuo exposes much of what is wrong when government
subsidizes religion with public money. It is up to us to successfully
argue the rest of the case against the "religion tax" in America.

-- Conrad Goeringer
Editor, AANEWS


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So Karl Rove is a liar

So Karl Rove is a liar instead of a nutcase. Shocked

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MattShizzle wrote:So Karl

MattShizzle wrote:
So Karl Rove is a liar instead of a nutcase. :o

I think he qualifies for both.

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Well, yeah. And an asshole,

Well, yeah. And an asshole, too! Laughing out loud